Rescues signal full steam ahead for railway trust

NICOLA FALLOW
Last updated 05:00 16/01/2013

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The Waimea Plains Railway Trust's race to rescue historic rail fixtures before they are scrapped has been helped by a $10,000 grant from the Community Trust of Southland.

The fixtures - at least one of everything from an 1880s railway system - were key to the project to recommission part of the original Waimea Plains railway, which features one of the first Kingston Flyers (the Rogers K92), carriages, historic track, a turntable and a windmill.

Waimea Plains Railway Trust chairman Colin Smith said that when the national railway system was sold to Toll Rail, the new owner tore out the metal from the old yards, essentially stripping the assets.

The trust had earlier identified where key fixtures were, and already paid for some of them, but then found itself in a race against those trying to buy the old metal for scrap.

"There was a great drive to get what we thought was ours," Mr Smith said.

The trust had to pay scrap prices of $400 to $480 a tonne for the remaining fixtures, which meant spending money earmarked for a building to house and display the K92 locomotive.

"Every item that was a major part of this [project] we have actually secured," he said.

The grant from the community trust helped meet the cost of transporting the fixtures.

Brent Findlay, of Timaru, aware of the urgency, had also carried some of the fixtures on credit.

He, and supporters like him, had worked on the basis they were making a contribution to something historic that a lot of people would enjoy, Mr Smith said.

The priority now was to raise funds to reassemble the former Dunedin railway yard Gully building. This would provide somewhere to store the locomotive and carriages as well as giving restorers somewhere to work on them.

Several supporters of the trust planned to list items of railway memorabilia on Trade Me this year and donate the proceeds, Mr Smith said.

Community Trust of Southland chief executive John Prendergast said it was important to preserve Southland's rich rail heritage and the trust was happy to support the Waimea Plains Railway Trust, and in particular Mr Smith and his wife, Maeva, in their commitment to do so.

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- The Southland Times

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